Category Archives: Relevant Publications

City Forgotten: The Fate of Small Towns in India’s Urbanization

September 23, 2013 · by Ayona Datta

Late one evening, my academic partner Abdul Shaban, his research assistant Noor Alam and I reached Malegaon in a hired car via a long dusty road off the Mumbai-Nashik highway. We lost our way several times even though both Shaban and Noor Alam had been to Malegaon several times earlier, but the nondescript nature of the road and the journey through fields and industrial setups in the dark can confuse anyone. We reached Malegaon finally by asking local passers-by, who assured us that this was indeed the road to the infamous town.

Smaller towns and rural areas are a gold mine that foreign automakers are yet to tap efficiently

Global automakers scour India’s backroads in search of dream market

By Aradhana Aravindan, Reuter,  Sun Feb 2, 2014

As economic torpor suffocates demand for new cars in India’s megacities, incomes are growing faster in small towns and country areas. That’s pushing the likes of General Motors  and Honda Motor Co to fan out in search of buyers in places where fewer than 20 people in every thousand own a car – for now.

Handbook of Urban Inequalities (in India)

By Darshini Mahadevia and Sandip Sarkar, in Oxford University Press,2012.

Nearly all urban data used for the purpose of economic analysis, urban policymaking, and investment decision-making are aggregated data. Urban systems, however, are heterogeneous and complex, which requires more nuanced responses. This handbook reprocesses NSS household-level schedules to develop disaggregated data sets for different size classes of urban centres. Comparing changes in the pre-reform and post-reform periods, the book analyses the inequalities between metros and non-metros with regard to consumption, poverty, employment, education levels, and services.
With detailed and meticulous data analysis covering the last 25 years, the book covers:
The importance of small and medium towns (SMTs) in urban development and urban poverty trends across major states in India.
Head Count Ratio (HCR) and per capita monthly consumption expenditures for different size class of urban centres in 16 major states in India.
Employment patterns and unemployment levels across different size classes and disaggregated by sex.
Level of basic facilities in different size classes of urban centres pertaining to water supply, sanitation, and garbage collection; and
Patterns of urban inequalities and their policy implications.

1. Urbanization, Urban Poverty, and Small and Medium Towns
2. Consumption Patterns and Urban Poverty
3. Distribution of Employment Patterns and Growth
4. Educational Opportunities and Economic Well-being
5. Access to Water and Sanitation
6. Emerging Patterns and Policy Implications

Small town water services: Trends, challenges and models

by Marieke Adank (2013) for International Water and Sanitation Centre, Thematic Overview Paper 27:  full paper here

Relatively new and emerging categories of human settlements, such as small towns, may require a different set of service arrangements to facilitate the provision of water. In this paper, Marieke Adank presents the main features and understanding of what constitutes “small towns” to determine the most appropriate water service arrangement for this new phenomenon. Findings of the paper point out to challenges in developing a clear typology for small towns and assigning one single model for delivering small town water services. Amidst this layer of ambiguity however, Adank draws examples from different arrangements serving “small towns” in countries, and provides compelling evidence that: a) different models and arrangements have been tested and have worked; b) there is a growing role for private sector involvement; and c) there is a need to revisit institutional and regulatory frameworks, as well as funding models, to finance capital maintenance. This paper concludes with a list of resources for further reading, and provides contact details of some organisations whose work focus on “small towns”.

Tindivanam and the agriculture: toward diversification?

A Master Thesis by Simon Perrier, 2012

Under the supervision of Frédéric Landy and Kamala Marius

UP10 – University Paris 10, Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense

Full text access in French here

Tindivanam est une ville moyenne indienne de 70000 habitants située dans le Tamil Nadu, à 40 kilomètres au nord de Pondichéry et à 120 kilomètres au sud de Chennai, à l’intersection de deux autoroutes. Elle est le chef-lieu d’un taluk à très forte densité rurale, où l’agriculture occupe une forte proportion des familles. Les cultures maraîchères, et d’autres cultures commerciales, ainsi que des usages non agricoles, occupent une part croissante des terres de la région, aux côtés de l’arachide et du riz, traditionnellement cultivés. Des progrès considérables ont d’ailleurs été institués pendant la “Révolution verte” pour améliorer les rendements de ce dernier. Tandis que l’alimentation des Indiens est en grande partie basée sur les céréales et protéagineux, deux procédés de commercialisation qui permettent aux paysans de mieux vendre leurs productions maraîchères ont vu le jour à Tindivanam il y a quelques années. Il s’agit d’un “marché paysan”, concept de vente directe quotidienne destinée à la population locale, mis en place par le gouvernement tamoul, et d’un centre de collecte d’une grande chaîne de supermarché, Reliance Fresh, où les légumes livrés par les paysans sont destinés à alimenter les magasins de l’enseigne situés dans les métropoles. L’étude s’intéresse à l’impact que l’implantation de ces deux marchés peut avoir sur l’espace rural autour de Tindivanam, en se demandant comment l’un et l’autre, avec leur fonctionnement propre, modifient les pratiques et stratégies des paysans. Cette question nous permet de nourrir une réflexion quant à l’échelle à considérer pour comprendre les processus en cours dans l’espace rural de cette région du Tamil Nadu septentrional. On se base notamment sur une enquête de terrain menée dans le village d’Ural, et au sein des deux marchés.



The Golden Quadrilateral Highway Project and Urban/Rural Manufacturing in India

by Ejaz Ghani, Arti Grover Goswami and William R. Kerr

The World Bank, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network, Economic Policy and Debt Department, September 2013

Policy Research Working Paper 6620

This study investigates the impact of the Golden Quadrilateral highway project on the urban and  rural growth of Indian manufacturing. The Golden Quadrilateral project upgraded the quality and width of 5,846 km of roads in India. The study uses a difference-in-difference estimation strategy to compare non-nodal districts based on their distance from the highway system. For the organized portion of the manufacturing sector, the Golden Quadrilateral project led to improvements in both urban and rural areas of non-nodal districts located 0–10 km from the Golden Quadrilateral. These higher entry rates and increases in plant productivity are not present in districts 10–50 km away. The entry effects are stronger in rural areas of districts, but the differences between urban and rural areas are modest relative to the overall effect. The productivity consequences are similar in both locations. The most important difference appears to be the greater activation of urban areas near the nodal cities and rural areas in remote locations along the Golden Quadrilateral network. For the unorganized sector, no material effects are found from the Golden Quadrilateral upgrades in either setting. These findings suggest that in the time frames that we can consider—the first five to seven years during and after upgrades—the economic effects of major highway projects contribute modestly to the migration of the organized sector out of Indian cities, but are unrelated to the increased urbanization of the unorganized sector.



Biting the hand that feeds: India’s small towns favor opposition

By Krishna N Das and Shyamantha Asokan in REUTER

From Kasba Bonli, Rajasthan, India, Sunday November 10, 2013

Kasba Bonli is a newly prosperous market town in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan and it should be a perfect advertisement for the ruling Congress party’s pro-farmer policies. Instead the buzz in the bazaar is for the opposition.

Is india’s manufacturing sector moving away from cities?

By Ejaz Ghani, Arti Grover Goswami, and William R. Kerr  NBER Working Paper No. 17992

This paper investigates the urbanization of the Indian manufacturing sector by combining enterprise data from formal and informal sectors. We find that plants in the formal sector are moving away from urban and into rural locations, while the informal sector is moving from rural to urban locations. While the secular trend for India’s manufacturing urbanization has slowed down, the localized importance of education and infrastructure have not. Our results suggest that districts with better education and infrastructure have experienced a faster pace of urbanization, although higher urban-rural cost ratios cause movement out of urban areas. This process is associated with improvements in the spatial allocation of plants across urban and rural locations. Spatial location of plants has implications for policy on investments in education, infrastructure, and the livability of cities. The high share of urbanization occurring in the informal sector suggests that urbanization policies that contain inclusionary approaches may be more successful in promoting local development and managing its strains than those focused only on the formal sector.

The Urbanisation of Rural China

China Perspectives 2013/3, Special Feature

For the first time in history, more Chinese people now live in towns and cities than in rural villages. Reaching 51% in 2011, urbanisation in China is accelerating. Convinced that this holds the key to the country’s ongoing social and economic development, China’s leaders recently announced an urbanisation target of 70% (approximately 900 million people) by 2025. However, leaders including Premier Li Keqiang have emphasised that future urbanisation would be characterised not by an expansion of megacities (dushihua 都市花), but by growth in rural towns and small cities (chengzhenhua 城镇化). The Party is essentially seeking to take the cities to the rural populace rather than bring the rural populace to the cities. Following the policy announcement at the 18th Party Congress in November 2012, a group of national ministries has been tasked with developing guidelines for promoting the urbanisation of rural China.

Size matters

By R B Bhagat in infochange (full article here)

Size clearly matters in the hierarchy of urban agglomerations. Most programmes including JNNURM are directed at the big cities. Basic civic services including electricity, sanitation and clean drinking water for the poor in small cities and towns are abysmal, and hardly better than rural areas. The widening gap in income levels between rural and urban areas cannot be bridged without developing small cities and towns.

Exclusionary cities: The exodus that wasn’t

By Amitabh Kundu in infochange (full article here)

Yes, the urban population increased more in absolute terms during 2001-11 than rural population. But, no, this is not because distressed agricultural workers are pouring into cities. It’s because census activism has tripled the number of urban centres in Census 2011. In fact, exclusionary policies are discouraging the inflow of rural poor into the mega cities.

Transition towns

By Kalpana Sharma in infochange (full article here)

The 74th constitutional amendment has on paper devolved power to urban local bodies. But even a cursory look at small towns reveals that elected representatives have little knowledge of their powers or responsibilities, cannot read or frame budgets and fail to generate local resources for planned development. Many of these towns are still transitioning between large village and town, with even basic public services absent, particularly for the poor.

The challenges of urbanisation may be even greater in small towns


by Jayati Ghosh, The Guardian, Tuesday 2 October 2012

Global urbanisation has prompted a focus on megacities that overlooks the needs and vulnerabilities of smaller settlements.

Most of the policy discussion concerning global urbanisation has focused on megacities. And certainly, these huge and historically unprecedented agglomerations create a whole host of new requirements and vulnerabilities that have to be addressed creatively and equitably. But if we are too focused on this single issue, we may lose sight of another emerging problem likely to explode in the coming years.

Increases in urban population reflect three separate forces: the natural rise in population within urban areas; the migration of rural dwellers to urban areas; and, as settlements expand and become more densely populated, the reclassification of rural settlements as urban. All three forces have been at work to varying degrees. But where the third factor is significant, it creates a particular problem, because the administrative machinery for urban areas seldom exists for such settlements.

Slumdogs and small towns

By Kalpana Sharma in infochange, Urban India, April 2009

Little is known or written about the 2,000 small and medium towns of India. The one characteristic that defines them all, says this report from towns such as Madhubani, Jhunjhunu and Sehore, is the absence of planning. Many of these towns do not even possess an accurate town map. And up to a quarter of their population lives in slums.

In Madhubani town in North Bihar, the longest lines are outside one of the four ATM machines dispensing instant cash.  In Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan, many people keep their own cows or buffaloes for milk because they do not trust the local milk supply.  In Narnaul, Haryana, there are dozens of beauty parlours and one of the women nominated to the municipal council is a trained beautician.  In all three, the most popular advertisement is for mobile phones.